Childish Gambino – Kauai EP

Cover for Kauai EP featuring STN MTN title

Donald Glover, the man, the myth, the comedian/rapper/actor/human-swiss-army-knife is at it again. Better known in the music scene by his alter ego, Childish Gambino, the 31 year old boy wonder recently released his highly anticipated EP full of island beats and dreamy hip hop fittingly titled, “Kauai.” A day before Kauai was released for public consumption on iTunes, Gambino released his mixtape to go along with the Kauai EP, STN MTN. The projects were presented together and one is supposed to complement the other. STN MTN features Gambino crushing tons of known beats originating from his Georgia, his home turf and the Kauai EP is all new material with some bonuses added in.

Lets focus on Kauai. The EP opens with a track that Gambino released via his Soundcloud titled, “Sober.” We hear bouncing synths and we hear the hook, “And now that it’s over/I’ll never be sober/I couldn’t believe/but now I’m so high.” A line that while it’s not easily accessible to everyone is still relatable to those that have gone through a break up. Here, Gambino gives us a somber track about longing for someone who’s already let you go on top of one of his most hauntingly uplifting beats yet. The best part of this track has to be the unexpected drop of his heatwrenching, bass-y bridge. By this time, it’s clear that this EP is going to be good.

Before you can talk about the EP, however, it should be said that this isn’t a typical Childish Gambino release. For one thing, it features Jaden Smith, the prodigal son of actor and “former rapper” Will Smith. Jaden Smith plays the part of “The Boy” on two tracks of the EP, and to anyone that knows Gambino’s screenplay from his sophomore album, this jumped out right away. “The Boy” is the main character from a 75 page screenplay that Donald Glover wrote to accompany his second album, “Because the Internet.” The album artwork for Kauai that Glover leaked revealed Jaden Smiths involvement from the very beginning and solidified the EP as a continuation of the project he began with Because the Internet. That being said, Jaden Smith’s presence on the EP is actually pretty cool.

At the end of the second track, “Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good)” Jaden Smith has a sort of spoken-word verse, in character of course. Smith hasn’t necessarily made a good name for himself in either the acting world or in the music industry (he hasn’t actually made music, but after his father’s blip of a rap career and his sister Willow’s insufferable, “Whip My Hair” song, his attempts would already be spoken for). However, his verse at the end of “Pop Thieves” and his voice at the beginning of “Late Night in Kauai” really help the EP flow together coherently. It’s also pretty pleasing to the ear, especially since Famuel Rothstein of Royalty acknowledges that people don’t take Jaden seriously in a poem at the end of the song. Though at first it was questionable, Jaden Smith definitely belongs here.

Overall, the album doesn’t showcase his rapping prowess as much as his two previous albums, but artistically, this EP is an absolute gold mine. It’s a great addition to the Because the Internet concept, and the songs themselves are incredible. Full of soul and spice in good measure, each track is something to behold, from the conceptual masterpiece that is “Late Night in Kauai” to the car-radio-thumping “The Palisades” which is my personal favorite off the EP, Childish Gambino has truly delivered again. It really feels like listening to this latest installment could take you to a night of bliss on a beach somewhere in Kauai.

Tiny Moving Parts- Pleasant Living

More often than not, a band’s second attempt fails to impress after a successful debut album. Pleasant Living by Tiny Moving Parts is definitely an exception to this rule. The band’s first LP, This Couch Is Long & Full of Friendship, brought them into the “emo revival” scene and built up a fan base for Tiny Moving Parts. This summer I saw them open for Modern Baseball and they had the crowd screaming along with their relatable lyrics and math-rock guitar solos. It was really good, but Pleasant Living is great.

There is a clear increase in maturity that is exhibited on Pleasant Living, both musically and lyrically. “Sundress,” the album’s opener, introduces this new growth that is carried throughout the album. The screamed words and guitar solos are more calculated and less meant to show off. The lyrical content is less like a stream of consciousness and more full of depth. The transitions between songs are done in a seamless way that makes Pleasant Living easily listened to all the way though.

Lyrically, Tiny Moving Parts can be considered typical emo. Themes of high school, friendships, and failed relationships, are present in a lot of the band’s songs. Pleasant Living is still emo, but less dramatically so. Frontmen Dylan Mattheisen and Matthew Chevalier work together vocally to deliver lyrics like, “I’m not ok, but I will be someday” that show angst with a gained sense of hope. Their voices blend together when necessary but also stand on their own during the spoken and screamed parts of songs such as “Skinny Veins.”

Tiny Moving Parts mixes spoken word, screaming, and experimental rock in way that works extremely well. The closing song of Pleasant Living, “Van Beers,” combines all of the band’s strengths beautifully. Trumpets highlight the clean vocals with lyrics that sound like returning home after time spent on the road. The album’s end showcases Tiny Moving Parts’ growth perfectly.

“Standing in the Breach” Album Review

I found the 2014 album “Standing in the Breach” by Jackson Browne ultimately relaxing in tone. It is characterized as a pop album, although I feel that it leaned more towards the country/ folk side. The guitar combined with light drums and deep, soft voice of Browne creates an atmosphere of an easy-going lifestyle in the face of trauma, heart break, and destruction in a changing world. The songs on this album investigate many troubling and personal aspects of life, such as relationships between lovers and world disasters, such as oil spills. They serve as a reflection of Browne’s discontent with the state of the world, but his determination to live through it. Browne is most known for his work in the 1970’s, however, he continues to produce music now while into his 60’s, still possessing the same vocal abilities and activist nature.

The first song, the Birds of St.Marks was not unknown to his fans. He first played it in the 1960’s and played throughout many of his concerts, but did not record it on any of his albums until this point. For this reason, this song has evolved through the years and has had a lot of work put in to it. I find it to be one of the best off the album. It is supposedly about Nico who was a female revolutionist in the 60’s, and who he believed had been too encompassed by a life of fame and fortune, and had therefore become lonely in her popularity. This song is sad in nature, but the melody I find to be somewhat comforting, as Browne states that he must “call back all the birds I sent to fly behind her castle walls”. Despite that he is weary over the fact that he must let her go, his knowledge of what he needs to do is inspiring, as we can not all chase after things forever.

Many of Browne’s songs possess similar melodies with a similar structure: repeated, short, riffs that incorporate only a few guitar chords and a few drum beats, followed by a short uplift in beat and intensity, only to return to the slow, basic pattern once again. Overall, despite that the melodies are enjoyable, I find that they are too repetitive. There is not much differentiation in the songs or between songs. However, this flaw is probably one of the only one’s I can discover.The lyrics on this album are touching, comforting, and inspiring, if that’s the kind of music you’re looking for, and despite his age his abilities as a performer have not visibly diminished.

Long Way Gone, the third song off the album, struck me deeply. In this song, he reflects on the state of the world as it is different from decades ago. As a man of 66, he has clearly seen tragedies as well as happy experiences. But now, he feels that things are heading more towards the former. As a child, he was care free, which most of us can relate to, but now as the world is changing to a more destructive place, he feels that he is “a long way gone” from where he used to be. Everyone can relate to this confusion and lost feeling that he discusses. Despite the tragedies, such as oil spills and gun control, he witnesses, he is at peace with his life, stating that this wild road will still “take me where i’m bound, but it’s a long way around.” I found this song extremely comforting and relatable.

Standing in the Breach, the song endowed with the album name, reflects on the unfairness of life: poor and rich, sick and healthy, etc. However, he believes that love “redeems us”,

Overall, this album truly shows Browne’s activist colors, but in a modern world rather than his 60’s development.

“Analog Man” Album Review

Crass, blunt, and politically-incorrect are three terms I would use to describe Max Random’s album Analog Man. And guess what? I think it’s fantastic. Random tells it like it is, and does so effectively. In his songs, he’s sort of the observational comedian, making fun of current events and taking a lighter side to social issues. He tackles subject such as death (“Mister D”), the government, corporate America, and pop culture (“Godzilla”), greed (“Come On Baby”), and of course, weed and the government (“Ballad of Johnny Boon”). He’s an excellent parody artist as well, including his song “I’ve Smoked Weed Everywhere” (“I’ve Been Everywhere”) and “Monster Hash” (“The Monster Mash”). Random also has a softer side, as demonstrated through his songs “You Were Cool”, which has lyrics that are a little reminiscent of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”, “It’s Not Goodbye Forever”, which deals with the death of someone close to him, and “Analog Man”, which is a funny song, but reminds us that we must enjoy life, and make it worth living.

Not only is Random an excellent comedian, he is also an excellent musician. He is a superb guitarist, and a pretty good singer. Overall, I liked this CD a lot. It is the perfect mix of comedy, and deep thought and insight. Every track was enjoyable to listen to, for me at least. I wouldn’t recommend this to people who are sensitive to these subject matters. But for those who aren’t, I say, give the album a listen. It’s worth it.

Novo Amor answers WQAQ’s questions

What is it about Woodgate that made you want to name your EP after the location?

It’s a place that is paramount in terms of the songs as a collection. In brief the EP is about the inconsistencies of loving someone, digging into the faults and remembering moments. The EP is a raw expression of a stage of life, and for me that stage started in Woodgate, NY.


Faux is honestly magical, what was it like to collab with Ed Tullet?

Firstly, thank you I’m pleased you like it… Secondly, Ed gets his name spelt wrong on a lot of music blogs… it’s Tullett, not Tullet (He gets fussy about that! Understandably).

Writing with Ed is great, he is one of those people you sort of hate because he is younger and better than you! I’m sure you know the type. We have lots of songs written together, writing with him seems to come easy because we share the same vision… more to come in the future.

I recently stumbled upon Holland while on 8tracks and so I watched the YouTube video and I watch it almost three times a day now. Did you have any say in the video, what was it like filming that video, where was the video located, and was the water freezing? What was the inspiration behind that song/video?

Josh, the director the video is a close friend of mine who co-owns a production company called Storm+Shelter (http://stormandshelter.com/). I generally trust these guys to make me decent videos so I don’t need to put too much of my own say into it, I will usually spend time brainstorming with Josh and trying out ideas… for example the night before we shot Holland he was filming me singing in a blacked out bath of water, when that failed we headed to the beach for 6am to film what would become the final video. The video was shot in February 2014 at Llantwit Major Beach here in Wales… And yes, the water was unexpectedly freezing!! I spent the rest of the shoot dying in the car.

I consider you to be my new Bon Iver. How do you like being compared to other bands such as Bon Iver?

I’ll take it as a compliment I guess. I’d rather be compared to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon than Universal Music Groups Justin Bieber. Bon Iver is held pretty high in my list of greats, so any comparison to that is ok with me. I think it’s mainly the falsetto vocals that cause the comparisons, and I only sing in falsetto because my normal voice just low and bland.

Will you be performing anytime soon in the U.S.?

Not anytime soon, I’d love to be able to go over there and tour with a full band setup… that’s the dream. Hopefully it will happen within the next year, Someone needs to invest in me!

Who is your music inspiration?

I tend to take little bits of inspiration from various artists and pieces I hear. Generally though I would say James Vincent Mcmorrow, Justin Vernon and Asgeir.

How long have you been making music?
Since I was about 13 when I got my first guitar and little cassette tape recorder… I’m 23 now and music has been my only passion for the past 10 years. I’ve only been making music under Novo Amor for the past 2 years, there has been a lot prior to this. Lots of heavy rock music, house music, cinematic & classical music.

Who are you currently listening to on your iPod?

I usually get obsessed with an artist for a few weeks and then move onto another one. Recently I have been listening to a lot of James Blake, Asgeir, Highasakite, James V Mcmorrow and Alt-J.